Welcome!

If you're just coming here for the first time, uh... you're late. The site is no longer updated daily (see HERE for the story). But it's still kicking 1-2x a week, and it's better late than never! Before reading any of the "reviews", you should read the intro, the FAQ, the MOVIES I HAVE ALREADY SEEN list, and if you want, the glossary of genre terms and "What is Horror?", which explains some of the "that's not horror!" entries. And to keep things clean, all off topic posts are re-dated to be in JANUARY 2007 (which was before I began doing this little project) once they have 'expired' (i.e. are 10 days old).

Due to many people commenting "I have to see this movie!" after a review, I have decided to add Amazon links within the reviews (they are located at the bottom), as well as a few links to the Horror Movie A Day Store around the page, hopefully non-obstructively. Amazon will also automatically link things they find relevant, so there might be a few random links in a review as well. If they become annoying, I'll remove the functionality. Right now I'm just kind of amused what they come up with (for example, they highlighted 'a horror movie' in the middle of one review and it links to, of all things, the 50 Chilling Movies Budget Pack!!!).

Last but not least, some reviews contain spoilers (NOTE - With a few exceptions, anything written on the back of the DVD or that occurs less than halfway through the movie I do NOT consider a spoiler). I will be adding 'spoiler alerts' for these reviews as I go through and re-do the older reviews (longtime readers may notice that there is now a 'show more' which cleaned up the main page, as well as listing the source of the movie I watched, i.e. Theaters, DVD, TV) to reflect the new format. This is time consuming, so bear with me.

Thanks for coming by and be sure to leave comments, play nice, and as always, watch Cathy's Curse.

PLEASE, GO ON...

Devoured (2012)

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014

GENRE: GHOST (or) PSYCHOLOGICAL
SOURCE: STREAMING (SCREENER)

There's a moment in Devoured that positively broke my heart, likely due to my recent entry into fatherhood. Our heroine Lourdes finds a birthday card that had been left behind in the restaurant where she works (as a maid, though we are shown she has cooking skill), and I assumed she just meant to bring it to a lost and found or something when she put it into her pocket. But no, later we see her crossing out the personalized message that was written in it and making it out to her son, who is back in Mexico, living with her mother while she tries to make ends meet in NY. I already feel guilty that I can't afford a house for my family, so the notion of being so poor that I couldn't even afford to buy him his own birthday card just killed me.

Indeed, the movie works more as a sad drama than a horror film. It doesn't take too much effort to figure out why Lourdes keeps seeing Carnival of Souls-like apparitions in her apartment and at the restaurant (the only two locations in the movie, pretty much), and there are a few too many phone calls where we don't see the other person on the line, sort of giving away the mystery by the process of elimination. It's a movie that obviously ISN'T TELLING US SOMETHING, but the story is so slight (and somewhat repetitive) that any halfway astute viewer can probably at least figure out the bulk of the mystery. Strange, director Greg Olliver makes it even more obvious with a prologue that starts at the end of the story, something that should just be hinting at what's to come but actually more or less cements the outcome by around the halfway point, when we've seen enough to figure it out. Without that prologue it might have been a bit more of a surprise; I'm baffled why they included it unless they just had to pad the runtime for contractual reasons or something (we even see a good chunk of the scene play out at the end the same way we did before, even though one or two shots would have sufficed to remind us where we were).

But, again, my mind is a bit more primed to notice the tricks such movies pull, thanks to 6 years of HMAD-ing. So hopefully the majority of viewers won't get tipped off in this peculiar way and let the surprises work as intended (and, I should note that I only correctly assumed part of the reveal - some of it was still a minor shock), allowing full enjoyment of this drama/horror blend. It's a tough sub-genre to pull off; horror films aren't exactly known for the deep characterization that a drama requires, and Olliver (and writer Marc Landau) double down on the difficulty by implementing a story that requires obscuring some key information about our heroine. Throughout the movie we see glimpses of her spending time with her son - it's unclear if these are flashbacks or dreams, and we also have to wonder why she doesn't seem all that fazed about the apparitions sometimes - is this a recurring problem, or a new development? As the movie is low on dialogue (she spends many scenes alone) and slightly repetitious by design (we want to understand how soul-crushing her life is as she struggles to raise money for her family) we get more time to think about these things than we might normally, which might be why I was able to determine the twist so early on (that plus, again, I'm hardwired to spot certain things that I can't really explain without spoiling it! Though I will stress she's not a ghost).

As for the scares, they're pretty stock (ghost shows up! Now he's gone!) but there's one that seems inspired by Audition that was pretty nifty, and the question of whether or not she's just seeing things or if they're really there lends the movie some added tension whenever someone else shows up. There's a cop (or firefighter? I forget now) who she strikes up a friendship with after accidentally spilling coffee on him (a meet-cute in a horror film!), and he often shows up just after a scare scene - will she tell him why she's so scared, or keep it to herself so she doesn't look crazy? That keeps us on our toes, as do the myriad number of things we KNOW have deeper meaning (like that back closet, or the guy who seems to follow her into the kitchen after hours) that you won't be able to detect even if you figure out the main thing. The pieces are all put in place at once at the end (with an accompanying Saw-style "let's look at this stuff again now that we have new context" montage); I wish they were spread out a bit more, but suffice to say you shouldn't have any questions by the end. And you'll be sad, so bonus!

And that's pretty much it. I always struggle with these reviews; I don't want to tip you off with more info about the plot that might give something away, and the things I like AND dislike also would require me to inadvertently spoil things, which I don't like to do for smaller release films that are just now seeing release. It's not a perfect movie, but I admired what they were trying to do, and they get enough right to warrant my blessing. Marta Milans does a fine job carrying the movie (she's in nearly every frame) and even with the cramped, minimal locations Olliver finds new angles often enough to keep it from being visually stale (though I couldn't quite piece together the layout of the kitchen/freezer - was it behind the restaurant, or down another level?). It's also a "real New York" horror movie, like Larry Fessenden's Habit, showing areas that haven't been depicted over and over in movies while avoiding any obvious landmarks. All in all, worthy of your VOD rental, if mainly to see how long it takes you to figure out its twist... if you can.

What say you?


PLEASE, GO ON...

Willow Creek (2013)

SEPTEMBER 6, 2014

GENRE: MOCKUMENTARY, MONSTER (?)
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (OWN COLLECTION)

Well it took what seems like a half dozen tries, but I've finally found a good found footage movie about Bigfoot. You'd think it'd be the easiest thing to pull off since it's a well known story and there are probably hundreds of legitimate home videos of idiots walking around in the Pacific Northwest looking for him, but as far as my (admittedly spotty) memory is concerned, Bobcat Goldthwait is the only one to do it. Willow Creek doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel when it comes to doing a found footage movie, but it gets so much right that others get wrong that it FEELS like it does; had I watched it in early 2013 (when I was so tired of FF films I swore them off for a while) I'd probably declare it a masterpiece in comparison.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good movie on its own right - the pacing is acceptable for this sort of thing (read: can be a bit slow, but with only two characters instead of the usual 3-4, that's an acceptable issue), the characters likable, and the scares effective. But it's just amusing that it succeeds mainly for doing found footage RIGHT; you'd think that would be the one thing that you can count on, but so many of them botch even the simplest elements that we sadly DO have to point out when a filmmaker actually considers his narrative and characters when taking this approach to creating a film. When the hero turns on his camera because something just happened (instead of the more common mistake of inexplicably having the cameras already rolling for no reason and just so happening to get something exciting in the frame), I was relieved - this one knew what it was doing.

Then again, Bobcat Goldthwait is a real filmmaker. Much like Martin Scorsese using 3D in a far more superior way on his first time out (Hugo) than some others have done after 3-4 tries, Goldthwait knows enough about how to construct a film that he is able to implement this tool (and that's what it is: a tool. Not an excuse.) in an effective way that rarely has you questioning why they're filming or (worse) wondering why he was using the POV gimmick anyway. As many of these films go, our heroes are making a documentary (about Bigfoot, of course), so not only do we have the built in explanation for all the tapes and batteries they must have, but it even makes sense why they film when things get a bit scary - that's exactly what they're there for. Unlike a ghost or whatever, Bigfoot's legacy is centered on the fact that there's only ever been one good film of him (the Patterson-Gimlin one), so sticking around for a few more second hoping to catch another glimpse before running for the hills is easy enough for an audience to buy, unlike some made up ghost that we have zero connection to beyond what the movie has invented before that point. The real mythology and interest surrounding Mr. Foot also gives him some added production value most FF movies can't have, such as a giant mural depicting Bigfoot helping people build houses and such (I guess the idea is that he's a resident and not something to fear), and a Bigfoot diner serving Bigfoot burgers and such. Even if you have for some reason gone your whole life without ever hearing of him, the movie has enough at its disposal to clarify its significance. Most movies just have to settle for having their characters look at (obviously fake) websites to sell their backstory.

Another thing making it work so well is that they make it ambiguous. Early on our heroes are scorned by a local for making fun of a giant Bigfoot statue, and when they enter the woods they run afoul of an angry man who gives them the "go back where you came from and stay the fuck out" speech, so (unlike Blair Witch Project, which never introduced such "red herrings") you get the idea that the noises they hear and the destruction of their tent could just be locals trying to scare off the city folk. A raccoon is also introduced as a possible "suspect", and of course bears are mentioned more than once. Given his comedic background, I was always half-expecting Goldthwait to pull the wool over our eyes and do something that might be construed as making fun of either Bigfoot hunters OR the found footage sub-genre as a whole; I won't spoil if he DOES, but I will say that this makes his scares more effective, as you're always kind of letting your guard down by thinking there's a non-Bigfoot explanation for what's happening.

But the real thing that sets this one apart from the pack is an incredibly nerve-wracking 18 minute single take shot that kicks off the film's 3rd act. I remember back when I made a Blair Witch parody back in 1999 I tried like 25 times to get the obligatory "apology" parody scene done in one take, only to realize later that Heather's version had several jumpcuts and thus I didn't need to bother (which, of course, could be said for the whole affair), and ever since I've always wondered why the sub-genre didn't have more of these epic single take shots. Bobcat must have wondered the same, and so he finally offers one; like others it starts after the first scare has already occurred, and we get to see the skeptical girlfriend (it's the male character who is gung ho about Bigfoot; she's just there to help out and spend time with him) go from "it's nothing, go back to sleep" to hysterical and scared, played out literally in real time. It's worth the price of admission alone to watch this one scene (which has four chapter breaks on the Blu!), and it further demonstrates how intelligently Goldthwait approached the aesthetic - BWP is one of the very few to offer an explanation for the obvious edits and the like (as the police gave the footage to a film school to sort out and tell a story to assist with their case), and this is not one of the others. Thus, it wouldn't make sense to have any cuts (the camera has been placed down, our only two characters are on-screen and not close enough to hit pause), and this isn't the only example - an early scene has the male doing the documentary intro 5 times as he keeps messing up. Unlike 99% of these things, I really felt like this was the full, unedited tape that was found by someone.

I just wish that he hadn't included a couple of moments that seem directly lifted from Blair. Most of these movies end up being compared to it no matter what (just as any possession movie gets an Exorcist namecheck in the review), and that's fine, but he could have reduced it some by not having a bit where our heroes break down over the fact that they walk by the same tree they passed hours ago. In BWP there was a possible supernatural explanation for this, that the woods weren't going to LET them leave, but there's no such element in this movie (unless I misunderstood something), so it just suggests that our characters are fools who can't walk in a straight line. The other isn't as big of a deal - there's a scare scene that starts with loud knocking noises and finally something rattling the tent, another big moment in BWP that I wish he could have avoided reprising.

Dark Sky's Blu-ray has some nice extras, including a deleted scene with a real Bigfoot hunter and a fun behind the scenes look at Bobcat and his DP trying to make the giant footprints in the mud without wrecking them or getting human prints mixed in and killing the illusion. The trailer, which possibly plays up the scares a bit too much, is also included, but the real draw is the commentary by Goldthwait and the two actors, Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson. Both have worked with him before, and so they have a pretty nice rapport and cover all usual bases in a very relaxed and genial way that most tracks lack. Bobcat points out some fun Easter Eggs (like his legs being reflected in a shot where he was lying down in the backseat of the car) and laments forgetting to brush away the fake tracks he made, worried someone will find them and they will become what's known as "false evidence" about his existence. They also discuss how much of the film was created by the actors on the spot (he had a roughly 25 page outline) and how the one-take shot was pulled off, with him and his cohorts listening to the (improvised) dialogue via walkie talkie so that they could dole out their scares at the best possible moments (i.e. when the two of them had explained away the last scare and were about to relax again). The movie is only 80 minutes long, so there's no reason you should skip the track if you dug the film - you got time!

I really wish more veteran filmmakers would try the found footage thing. Many of them are by first timers who, no offense, simply don't understand enough about storytelling to handle what is essentially a crutch. Of course there are exceptions (the Blair guys, Oren Peli), but for every one of those there's a dozen from directors who I'm not convinced could make a compelling film even without something that requires finesse to pull off with any measure of success. Maybe I take these things more seriously than the average moviegoer who just wants a few cheap scares, but I look at it the same way I do 3D: a tool that when used correctly can create a truly memorable moviegoing experience. And like 3D, it's a shame found footage gets used a selling point by producers and filmmakers who simply don't appreciate the power it has when implemented with care. So kudos to Goldthwait for reminding me that it's not the gimmick itself that makes my eyes roll - it's the number of films where it's simply not being used half as well as it is here.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

As Above, So Below (2014)

AUGUST 31, 2014

GENRE: SUPERNATURAL, SURVIVAL
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

As a big fan of the underrated Devil, I was excited to see a new film from the Dowdle brothers, despite the fact that it was a POV "found footage" movie, a sub-genre (of sorts) of which I've grown quite tired of seeing. But even the promise of someone saying "Keep filming!" for the millionth time couldn't deflate my enthusiasm for As Above, So Below based on its plot, which seemed to be a blend of The Descent's claustrophobic "we're trapped underground!" terror and the psychological torment of Flatliners, with our heroes being inexplicably haunted by things from their past as they try to find their way back to the surface. I always wanted more Descent-type movies, and the French Catacombs deserve better than Catacombs, so... favorite horror movie of the year, right?

Sadly, no. It's fine, and I'd even watch it again someday (and would love a commentary, as they really filmed inside the 'combs, unlike the other film which was mostly shot on stages in Bulgaria), but the Dowdles (or their producers) bungled a couple of things that kept it from ever really popping, resulting in one of those movies where I'm actively questioning the choices that they are making. It's one thing to question a plot point or some poor writing on the drive home - but when it happens during the viewing, when you should be completely engulfed in its situation, the movie clearly needs some fixing.

At the risk of sounding ADD, part of the problem is that it's too long. 104 minutes is above average for any horror movie, let alone one with the found footage gimmick (Blair Witch is barely over 80), and they could have shaved 10 minutes off by simply reducing the number of times the characters find themselves seemingly trapped until a hole in the ground is discovered, forcing them to descend even deeper with the hopes that this new path would lead to a place where they could finally start to make their way back up again. None of us have ever been there, so it's not like we'd realize that they had jumped into a new tunnel all of a sudden (as a result of just chopping out one of these sections entirely), and even if we DID know the layout, the low lighting and shaky camera (though not as bad as some others) would likely help obscure such a transition anyway. There's no variety of note to these plot points, so it actually starts to border on ridiculous - we keep seeing them go down but never up, and while that could be fun (there's some discussion that they're actually descending into Hell itself), the movie doesn't really dive deep enough into such a scenario to justify all the repetition we endure to get there.

After the movie I tweeted the following sentiment (paraphrasing myself! Fun!), that if the Dowdles had used 10 minutes of the screentime devoted to this stuff and applied it to character and story, it would have been a minor classic. They definitely have enough of the Descent-y, claustrophobic nightmare maze thing (the movie's highlight, easily, is one character's panic attack when "trapped" in a tight tunnel), but not nearly enough of the "Flatliners stuff", for lack of a better term. Early on, the male hero discovers a piano that belonged to his family when he was a child, something that would obviously not be located inside of the catacombs, and their tour guide sees his personal graffiti tag in a tunnel he's never entered. But then this sort of stuff is only given intermittent screentime for the rest of the movie; there's definitely a "Past sins coming back to haunt us" element at play, but the Dowdles treat it as an afterthought. One of the characters has a burned hand, and you would expect him to explain it BEFORE his inevitable death, but no - by the time he sees the burning car with his friend (brother? lover? who knows?) inside, and gets sucked into it (not a spoiler, it's the highlight of the trailer), his burned hand had long been forgotten. Had he sat down and confessed his secret (apparently, he left someone to die in a burning car, escaping with a minor burn on his hand) at any point before, this scene would be much more harrowing - there's a setup and a punchline, but no meat to the tale to make it stick. And another character doesn't even really GET the past sins thing - he just sort of awkwardly confesses an illegitimate child near the very end (after the other surviving characters have figured out what's happening and aired their dirty laundry), and it seems more like a last minute addition to explain some random jump scares earlier than a genuine plot point.

But the Dowdles have proven themselves in the past, so I have to assume that this obviously long movie was trimmed of its slower moments (i.e. the parts where characters would talk) in an attempt to make it more exciting, Dimension style. There's no way I can believe that they'd be fully satisfied with say, the character of Mole, who has one of the more interesting backstories (he's been down there for years, having gotten lost/presumed dead on a previous expedition) but completely disappears from the narrative after committing a murder out of nowhere. There's also some stuff with a cult that just gets dropped, and again a major event involves a character whose connection to our protagonist isn't even clear (and the tragedy is too similar to the male lead's own sob story). Someone, Ryan Turek I think, said that this stuff feels kind of Fulci-esque, but was it that way by design? I'm all for weirdness and confusing plot points, but this doesn't seem like the kind of movie that would embrace such storytelling - and with the ending bordering on happy, it doesn't fit the mood anyway. If they wanted to honor Fulci's storytelling, what you THINK is happening at the end when they push down that manhole would be exactly what happens - not what actually does. It's like the movie WANTS to get weird and ambitious but keeps holding back, rendering it kind of flat as a whole.

That all said, it's got its merits. The aforementioned panic attack scene is terrific, and while it causes some confusion (since everyone has a camera on their helmet) the POV aspect is better implemented than many of its studio brethren (cough, Devil's Due, cough), though that shouldn't be a surprise since this is the Dowdles' third film to use it (after Quarantine and the faux doc Poughkeepsie Tapes). But my favorite thing about it was how it also sort of functioned as a National Treasure/Indiana Jones type adventure, with our heroes deciphering riddles and encountering traps on their way to find the famed Philosopher's Stone*, giving it an extra bit of excitement and identifying our leads as smart folks. They even think things through; there's one riddle where they have to pull out a stone that corresponds to the order of planets, and in a dumb movie they'd just base it on the 9 planets we learned in grade school (yes, counting Pluto), but someone recalls that at the time the riddle was devised they didn't know about Neptune or Pluto. And then they start to count on that, but then they recall that this was before Copernicus, and thus the order was based thinking that Earth was the center and the moon was a planet. It's that extra bit of smarts that make these scenes work better than they have any right to. I also had to laugh; around the end of act 2 they come across a new message that needs to be deciphered - throughout the movie everything has been more or less a riddle that (I assume) was made up for the movie, but for whatever reason I mentally joked that this one just said "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here", which is a standard horror movie reveal - but then they translate it, and THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT IT WAS! I was floored.

The characters are pretty likable too, another plus. The guide guy is established as a sort of dick, but they do away with this element quickly as he is just as terrified as the rest of them and they experience the same sort of things. So when they see his tag on a wall in a room he says he's never been to before, and they think he's fucking with him, it's not long before they're seeing their own impossible things and realize he wasn't lying. It's nice to see a modern horror movie with 5-6 protagonists that all like each other and work as a group (standard occasional bickering aside). Just a shame that some of them never get any real development and the movie has them repeating the same actions so many times that we start to get sick of looking at them - I wasn't hoping that someone would die because he/she was a terrible person, I just wanted a death to force the movie to change gears a bit! Still, it gets as many things right as it does wrong, which is enough to put it near the top of the quality list for what has been a pretty underwhelming year for wide release fright fare (it's pretty sad that this and Oculus, neither of which left me fully satisfied, are the best of the lot). Hurrah for being better than bad!

What say you?

*I couldn't help but wonder, do they change it to "Sorcerer's Stone" in the UK to even things out with Harry Potter?


PLEASE, GO ON...

RIP HMAD screenings: 2009-2014

Fewer things have meant as much to me as when Phil Blankenship let me co-host a 20th anniversary screening of Shocker at the New Beverly Cinema here in Los Angeles back in 2009. I wrestle with the notion of "guilty pleasure" movies, but for the sake of argument if such a thing exists, then Shocker is mine - I know it's got problems, and it's hardly the best Wes Craven has done, but dammit I love it anyway, and having literally worn out the soundtrack on tape (twice, but the second was bought used so maybe it was already on its way out) as a kid it felt amazing to hear those songs piping through the New Bev's speakers. This is a place that often shows Truffaut and Fellini films - and we're here listening to "Demon Bell" ("I wanna hear you SCREAM LIKE HELL!").

But it wasn't just the hosting that meant so much to me; it was a validation of HMAD, sure, but the thing that made me proudest was that it was at a theater I loved so much and consider an important part of Los Angeles' culture. I hosted screenings at a few other theaters around, and while I enjoyed them all I never felt as much of an honor as I did when I'd walk up to the New Bev stage and grab one of its mics. I first went to it a couple months after moving to LA, and while I never got to go as often as I'd like (which would be several times a week, since you can get a pretty thorough film education from its programming), I got there enough to make friends with fellow regulars, including the delightful Clu Gulager, who attended more of my screenings than just about anyone. I also obviously got to know Michael Torgan, the manager who carried on his father Sherman's legacy after he sadly passed away in 2007. In a city full of people who are selfish and care only about themselves, Michael was kind to a seemingly inhuman degree. For the past few years I don't think he's ever let me take my wallet out of my pocket (same goes for my wife when she'd accompany me), and when the Alamo did its Halloween screening there in 2012 he not only let me in to see the movie (it was a sold out event that I couldn't afford), but gave me the Ken Taylor poster they had given him for his trouble. If you've ever tried to obtain one on eBay, you'd know how amazing a gesture it is to give someone theirs for nothing.

I could probably fill up the entire post with other stories like this (such as the time where he programmed Armageddon, a request I can't imagine anyone else besides me ever made), but suffice to say he's a great guy who I have the deepest respect for, and I did my best to repay his selflessness by trying to fill up his theater once a month (or so) with a bunch of horror fans who might otherwise not attend the theater all that often, if ever (though a number of Bev regulars, like Clu, would often attend). After Phil parted ways with the theater back in 2011, Michael asked if I still wanted to host In The Mouth of Madness, which Phil had already booked as our next event, with the agreement that if it went well we'd continue to do them. I stay out of the financial side of things, so I don't know if the shows were always successful (I can almost guarantee End of Days wasn't), but I assume on the average they were or else he wouldn't have let me keep picking movies to show. For the next 3+ years we continued doing shows every month or so, and when I "quit" HMAD last year I assured him that I may be too busy/burned out to keep watching/reviewing movies every day, but that I fully intended to keep the screenings going on the same schedule. Even after we had our baby, my wife knew how much these shows meant to me and graciously allowed me to leave her alone on a random Saturday night, reducing the already minimal time she got to sleep so I could stand in front of a hundred or so horror fans and hand out DVDs before showing a junky (but AWESOME!) movie like Jason Takes Manhattan.

Ideally, I'd show movies I "discovered" via HMAD, but it would prove to be difficult to find 35mm prints of many of those (Raw Meat was one of the only exceptions), so I shifted focus and began doing movies that I never got a chance to see on 35mm, or movies I thought folks should re-evaluate (had we continued, I'd have pushed for Valentine next February). I didn't even love all the movies (including the last one, Nightmare 5), but I knew they'd be draws due to being part of a franchise (such as Jason Takes Manhattan), and thus successful for Michael and hopefully make up for a disappointing turnout like The Descent, which I just wanted to see on the big screen again but apparently few others felt the same. And we got to do something truly special - the first legal screening of the much-discussed "Producer's Cut" of Halloween 6, on a 35mm print to boot. I've been told this screening helped get the ball rolling for this month's official release of the film (via the Anchor Bay/Scream Factory Halloween collection set), something that's been desired for the past 18 years. To have a small part in something that will make so many Hallo-fans happy makes me incredibly giddy - it almost justifies how much Devin's eyes must hurt from rolling every time I submit yet another piece focused on the series for my BadassDigest column.

So believe me when I say I'm devastated about the recent turn of events at the theater. I first caught wind of it when we were selecting this last screening; it was hinted that it might be the last so I toyed with the idea of doing something better (or, Shocker again) to send it off in style, but I forged ahead with Nightmare 5 in the hopes that the gods of cinema wouldn't allow the series to end on such a "meh" note, and that whatever was going on could be reversed. Alas, that does not seem to be the case, and we sadly ended with a whimper - not only is it not exactly a great movie, but our special guests bailed at the last minute and the title never even made it to the marquee at the theater (I was also running late so I didn't get a shot of the line). Clu even missed it, which almost never happens. I do not know all of the specifics of what happened there, as it's none of my business really, but I know that the theater will be closed in September and that the rest of the year's programming has already been selected. I don't technically work there, so they have no reason to keep me in the loop of what's going on - but it certainly seems like the folks that will now be calling the shots are not interested in continuing any current recurring programming series, including ones that are far more popular than my shows. I felt guilty enough doing them without Phil, but I wouldn't even consider doing them unless Michael was the one calling the shots (another great thing about him - he'd put up with me tossing out dozens of titles every month, since he was the one who'd have to locate/book the prints). I'm confident that the theater will continue to show great movies, but part of what made the New Bev so wonderful and perfect was the family atmosphere, something that cannot possibly be felt when the family who started it has been shown the door.

If you ever made it out to one of the HMAD shows, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We only had one sell out show (Nightmare 4), so each empty seat I'd see on the other nights made me that much more appreciative of the people filling the others (for the record, they were usually around half full, which is actually good for a midnight since it's tough to get folks out that late for a movie they probably have at home). If you ever won a crappy DVD and watched it, I apologize - I made no secret that most of those "prizes" were the movies Amoeba wouldn't even give me a nickel for in trade-in value, though every now and then I'd get an extra copy of something good. I would try to get guests every time; I wasn't always successful of course, but special thanks to Wes Craven and the Shocker cast, Larry Drake, Kevin Pollak, Dan Farrands, Bill Moseley, Ken Foree, Sandy Carpenter (twice!), the Nightmare 4 cast, Brad Dourif (twice!), Patrick Lussier, Don Mancini, John Lafia, Danny Trejo, and anyone else I forgot who came to one of my shows during their free time (and at a late hour) and made those shows that much more special to me and (hopefully) the audience. Another thanks to Phil for opening the door for me there, and a very special thanks to Jacopo Tenani who designed most of the posters for the shows starting with Urban Legend - he'd spare you my dumb Photoshop jobs AND make something eye-catching and unique, with folks always asking if they could get a printed version (which we sadly could never find a way to make affordable). Please head to his site for his continued works!

To send it off, I've compiled a list of all the shows I hosted there under the HMAD name (I did a couple of other Q&As that were unrelated to HMAD, such as with Tommy Lee Wallace for Halloween III, some of which appears on the blu-ray). I THINK it's complete; I stupidly used to delete my posts once the screening had passed, so I had to go by memory and also the existence of the photoshopped posters that were still on my hard drive. If you think I missed one, let me know!

In association with Phil Blankenship's weekly midnight series:
October 2009: Shocker*
December 2009: Dr. Giggles*
March 2010: Terror Train
April 2010: Raw Meat
July 2010: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
September 2010: Maximum Overdrive
November 2010: Hatchet I/II double feature*
Feb 2011: Phantasm II**

HMAD "solo" shows:
April 2011: In The Mouth of Madness*
May 2011: People Under The Stairs
June 2011: From Dusk Till Dawn*
July 2011: Psycho II*
August 2011: Drag Me To Hell
September 2011: The Descent
November 2011: John Carpenter's Vampires*
January 2012: Psycho III*
February 2012: Silver Bullet
March 2012: Child's Play*
April 2012: Christine
May 2012: There's Nothing Out There*
June 2012: Urban Legend
August 2012: Monkey Shines
September 2012: The Faculty*
October 2012: Halloween II
(Series break due to holidays and then the exclusive run of Django Unchained)
March 2013: Final Destination 2*
April 2013: Scream*
May 2013: The Howling
July 2013: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood*
August 2013: Nightmare on Elm Street 4*
September 2013: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (AGAIN!)
October 2013: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (producer's cut)*
December 2013: End Of Days*
January 2014: The Exorcist III*
March 2014: Child's Play 2*
May 2014: Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3*
July 2014: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan*
August 2014: Nightmare on Elm Street 5

*Denotes special guest Q&A
**Denotes special guest that never let me speak

Thanks Michael. Thanks New Beverly. It's been my absolute pleasure.

BC

PLEASE, GO ON...

Jersey Shore Massacre (2014)

AUGUST 23, 2014

GENRE: SLASHER
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

A while back, I was stunned to discover that Jersey Shore Shark Attack was a fairly enjoyable movie. Not a GOOD one, mind you, but certainly not the type that made me want to quit HMAD, unlike some other shark movies - and even more surprising since I loathe its namesake MTV show. Then again so did its filmmakers, I think, since they didn't exactly try to make them endearing or anything. And since I actually suggested tackling other sub-genres with the same approach, I figured I'd give Jersey Shore Massacre a shot; at best it'd be just as mindlessly entertaining as the previous movie, at worst I could walk next door to see something else*.

Well they did it again. I'd never watch it again - not even the few minutes I missed when the "projectionist" inexplicably began fucking around, stopping the movie for a while and then skipping ahead (blu-ray?) to "roughly" where we left off - but it held my attention and even genuinely entertained me at times. Plus, I can't even recall the last time I saw a new slasher movie in theaters (Hatchet III, I think?) so the sheer novelty of that was enough to win me over, as you know damn well how much I love my slasher movies.

The weird thing is, it seems writer/producer/director Paul Tarnopol does too, as the movie is chock full of what I have to assume are intentional homages (or lifts) from slasher fare of yore. But the choices are more inspired; he doesn't settle for Halloween or Friday the 13th references - he pulls out some deep cuts. A 3rd act sequence recalls Madman, there's a plot twist straight out of Just Before Dawn, and he even pays homage to a kill from Jason Goes To Hell (the only memorable one, so there's no need to wonder which one). He also lifts the great Slumber Party Massacre scene where they barricade a door in an upstairs bedroom only for the killer to come in through the window somehow. The line between ripping off and paying homage is pretty thin when it comes to something as junky as slashers (a genre more or less built on people ripping each other off), so I don't really care what he's doing - the point is he's SEEN these movies, so he's more qualified for the job than I expected from a "JWoww production". I assumed anyone who knew how to say the words "action" and "cut" would have been good enough.

Oddly, while the Shark one, if memory serves, just had one of the cast members in a cameo and thus the slams on him and his castmates weren't too surprising, it's kind of weird/fun that this has the same approach given that JWoww was the producer. Maybe she didn't notice, or hates her co-stars now, but either way this film shares Shark's tendency to make Jersey folks out to be total buffoons and assholes. One of the protagonists is a date rapist, another (who looks like Corey Haim and is apparently a parody of JS cast member Pauly D) drives a woman out into the middle of nowhere and leaves her there because she's a bit overweight, and it takes all of 7 seconds for the females of the group to hate some Hispanic girls who they repeatedly call "Chonga" (a racist term this movie introduced me to! Thanks?). Even the obvious Final Girl is a bit of a jerk; when one of the 'roided out males punches a mime for no reason at all, seemingly breaking his nose, she looks concerned for a second, then forgets all about him before he's even out of sight. You expect her to go over and apologize, invite him to the party, let him be the kindly male lead... but nah. They punch him and that's that.

Tarnopol also takes much glee in killing these goons. The film is much gorier than I expected, to the point where I assumed "torture porn" might come up in someone's review. There's a pretty grisly death involving a bike (?) chain being wrapped around someone's neck, and another guy gets his tattoos removed via belt sander. I figured it'd be more horror-comedy and the cast would mostly be left standing by the end (as was the case in Shark Attack) but no (SPOILERS!), the Final Girl is exactly that; the only other survivor of note is Ron Jeremy, the guy who was supposed to rent them a beach house (he screws up, hence why they go to a more horror movie friendly isolated cabin) who shows up again at the end to make a horrible porn joke. As is often the case I didn't bother watching a trailer beforehand (the title alone enticed me!); watching it now I realize that they actually made this a tagline ("You're not the only one who wants them dead"), a tactic I can't recall ever being used besides for House of Wax ("See Paris DIE!"), which is another movie this one recalls, incidentally.

I'm not sure if this counts as a complaint, but it's still worth mentioning - the movie really struggles to fill its bare minimum runtime. There's an overlong section where they watch a bad slasher movie called "Fat Camp Massacre" or something like that, so of course we get full scenes to pad things out. I guess it's supposed to be foreshadowing, but since a few people have died already at this point it's a bit late. Bizarrely, Tarnopol shot the main movie in 2.35 scope, but shows these movie-in-the-movie scenes at 1.78 - the reverse of how most filmmakers would do it. Mistake, or is he a rebel? Another scene that could have been dropped if it wouldn't keep the movie under the minimum is an inexplicable bit where a has-been local rapper named Italian Ice, who claims Vanilla Ice stole his career, performs his one hit song seemingly in its entirety. The character appears out of nowhere (seriously, he just starts talking off-screen and then we see him sitting at their table as if he was there all along), sings, then leaves the club and is never mentioned again, so I'm puzzled by his inclusion. Hilariously, when I watched the trailer I discovered that there was more that I missed when the projectionist screwed up, but the way it happened in our theater seemed natural (it cut as the girls were trying to decide what to do, and when it came back they were going to the beach - apparently there's a full sequence in between there where they go on a tour of the woods and learn about the Jersey Devil). So this clearly could have been cut as well, since it sort of WAS and I had no idea anything of significance had been missed. The projectionist even asked if this was where we (yes, there was one other guy there) left off, and I was confident all we missed was someone saying "Let's just go to the beach!".

The AVClub or one of those sites basically called this movie the death of cinema, but as always I assume the writer rarely if ever watches stuff like this and assumes it can't get any worse. On an average week of HMAD this might even be one of the better movies I watched, and it certainly wouldn't be the worst (if it was, that'd be a pretty good week!), so I hope you keep that in mind should you take this as any sort of recommendation. It's not a good movie, I will stress, but having seen a lot worse, and that it improved on my expectations, I walked away relatively impressed. If you enjoyed the shark one you will probably like this too, but if you're hating it after 10 minutes, just fast forward the next 20 until they start dying horribly (plus you want to stick to the end to appreciate the legitimately amazing sight gag involving a cop trying to plant a gun), and enjoy for different reasons! You win either way!

What say you?

*On the adjacent screen was a 30 minute documentary called Metallica: This Monster Lives, which I guess is a sort of update/sequel to their incredible documentary Some Kind of Monster. I can't condone paying full ticket price for something that barely lasts longer than the trailer reel, but I'm damn curious about this.

PLEASE, GO ON...

HMAD Screening: NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST 5: THE DREAM CHILD

I've been doing HMAD shows at the New Beverly for almost 5 years now, and in that time only one movie has sold out: Nightmare on Elm Street 4. Granted it's the series' biggest hit (until FvJ came along anyway), and we had a lot of cast, but I was still surprised that it was more of a draw than even Scream or Halloween II (both quite crowded, but not quite sold out). At the time, I promised the crowd to come back in 2014 for the next one, and I'm a man of my word, so on August 23rd, at 11:59pm, I'll host the 25th anniversary screening of Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, in glorious 35mm!

I've always gone back and forth on this entry; sometimes I just can't deal with "Super Freddy" and the weirdo plot involving Alice's unborn child, other times I appreciate the darker tone (compared to 4 and 6 anyway) and less populated cast, making it feel more like the original than the crowded 3rd and 4th films. And unlike Michael and Jason, I actually enjoy getting little pieces of Freddy's backstory, so the flashbacks here (including one with Robert Englund sans makeup) were highlights. Also, while it's a bit vague in the finished product (this one had a lot of rewriting during production), I liked the concept behind this group of teens, where they all had less than desirable home lives and overbearing parents. By this point we can assume none of the kids being targeted were actually children of the parents who killed Freddy all those years before, so I like that they were able to at least attempt a thematic "sins of the parent" idea, even if it doesn't fully play. Also this is the last sequel I need to see on 35mm, so I can cross off another entry on my bucket list!

But really the reason this one is worth watching is for Lisa Wilcox, promoted to full heroine after having to awkwardly share the limelight with the Dream Warriors in the last movie. I'll never get why they didn't have her back for the 6th one since she didn't die and was quite loved by the fans, but it's their loss - and I'm happy to report that Ms. Wilcox will be returning to the New Bev for Q&A, as I guess she had enough fun last time to spend another Saturday night talking to us nerds! She said she would reach out to one of her co-stars, hopefully that works out and we can announce him/her as well!

The New Beverly is located at 7165 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles, 90036 (2 blocks west of La Brea). Street parking is easy to find - Formosa is your best bet, usually (just watch the signs on the other side streets as some of them are permit only). Tickets are 8 bucks cash or card at the door, or online at BrownPaperTickets. I'll have some DVDs to hand out for dumb trivia questions, and as always the Q&A will be BEFORE the movie, so get there on time! The nightmare begins at 11:59 pm on Saturday, August 23rd!

And once again the awesome Jacopo Tenani has designed an eye-catching promo ad for the show - if you are so inclined to use it on your blog to tell your friends about the screening, please credit him!

PLEASE, GO ON...

The Possession Of Michael King (2014)

AUGUST 7, 2014

GENRE: MOCKUMENTARY, POSSESSION
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (PROMO SCREENING)

I forget if it was here or in a BAD article, but I recently came to the conclusion that the reason I am less critical of possession/exorcism movies than many of my peers is that I saw The Exorcist relatively late considering when I started watching horror movies - I was 19, well over a decade after my first viewings of Texas Chain Saw, Friday the 13th, etc. So I was already a bit desensitized (and had probably seen a couple of its knockoffs), and thus it didn't give me the nightmares and permanently scarred psyche that those who saw it when they were 10 or 12 have had ever since. And in turn, when a movie like The Possession of Michael King comes along and fails to be "as scary as The Exorcist" (now and forever the point of comparison), it's not as big a deal to me - I quite like Friedkin's film and recognize its power, but it's not so important to me than the average knockoff can't ever be enjoyed.

Incidentally I saw Exorcist for the first time right around the same time (possibly even the same week) as Blair Witch Project, which remains the alpha and omega of found footage movies, at least with regards to how realistic the device is implemented. I can't recall if it says so in the film or if it's just part of the well-established lore surrounding the film thanks to the website and Sci-Fi Channel specials, but the story goes, the police found Heather and Josh's footage out in the woods, all out of order and unmarked. Having no idea what to do with it, they gave it to the local film school and asked them to piece together the events in order so that they could use it for their investigation. So any "movie-like" moments had that built in explanation, not that they indulged in it beyond adding comic relief at the top of the film. Michael King, on the other hand, lacks any sort of explanation for how we're seeing what we are, which had me (and my friend) questioning the presentation. Why did it have score? Who put it together for us to watch? Why do his home videos of his wife, clearly shot with a digital camera, have an 8mm color tint and framing to them?

However, it otherwise DOES justify the gimmick a lot better than many others of late; after the wife's death via car accident (which he blames on a psychic telling her to be somewhere to catch a job opportunity that never actually came - had she carried on with her original plans she wouldn't have been in the spot where she was hit), our hero Michael takes it upon himself to make a documentary to prove that psychic readings, demons, spirits, etc are not real. His hope is that by proving there is no truth behind any of this stuff he can help someone else avoid the same fate as his wife - so of course within 15 minutes we see proof that demons and such are in fact real. He tries to rationalize it at first, and then spends a good chunk of the movie trying to vanquish whatever has possessed him. All of this is pretty standard stuff, we get jump scares, moments where he can't remember what he just did, he scares his family members... other than the rare sight of a male going through these motions (Regan, Emily Rose, Nell Sweetzer... demons sure love the ladies) it's nothing to write reviews about, really.

But then there's a twist of sorts - the demon pretty much completely takes over, and his sister has taken his daughter out of harm's way after he clearly kills the family dog. So you have a third act that's almost entirely a one-man show where a fully possessed guy is smashing up his house, talking about bugs, or (when briefly getting control) trying to kill himself. And even the "Why are they filming?" question has a good answer for once - not only did he set up cameras around the house (because of course) but he has a little pen-sized cam on his neck (two of them actually, it's a sort of collar) that I guess the demon didn't see the need to remove. So you get unusual angles on the action (particularly during a bit where he assaults the guy who helped him conjure the demon), and a refreshing lack of people filming their friends getting murdered, which is what most FF movies end up doing. Again, there's no real explanation for how we're seeing this footage (he seemingly destroys the computer that I assumed had contained all the footage), but at least the in-moment logic works.

It's unfortunate that writer/director/producer/etc (the giant ass credits at the end made his repeated crediting of himself all the more obnoxious) David Jung insisted on attempting to make the audience deaf by the end of his 80 or so minute movie. Not one for subtle scares, he constantly goes for the increasingly tiresome (particularly in FF movies) approach of adding loud distortion out of nowhere to make the movie theoretically more terrifying. It may work on occasion (i.e. the first time), but by the end it gets pretty numbing and obnoxious - you can sense when they're coming (the movie will get quiet) and plug your ears while rolling your eyes. I like that he used camera distortion to add to the effect (as if the demon was possessing the camera as well), but as with all types of scares, less is more - had he been a bit more selective with this concept, the movie as a whole would have been better. You could sense the audience getting tired of having their ears assaulted; eventually it became a bit like one of those internet gags where they tell you to stare at a picture and then Pazuzu will appear accompanied by a loud noise - except 20 times in a row.

But there was enough I liked to give it a pass. Michael's driving force was rather touching (it's very rare I feel sad for anyone in a modern horror flick, let alone a found footage one), and other than a painful "homage" at the very end I thankfully wasn't being reminded of Exorcist every 5 minutes (or Last Exorcism, an even more apt comparison given the found footage approach). The occasional bits of humor were well implemented, and the pacing was fast, which is always tough for a FF film. And it was vastly more entertaining than the ghost hunter guy who talked before the movie and played some audio recordings of potential EVP - it's hard enough to buy into this stuff when we're seeing it on Ghost Hunters or whatever, but when it's a guy just playing audio? We just have to take his word for it that the "get out" we hear wasn't added later or staged at the time? And that was one of the better ones; another one he played sounded like someone's cell going off. Ooooh. This pointless diversion kept me from sticking around for the Q&A as I had to get back to my own demonic entity (a piss-happy baby), which I felt bad about since my friend was moderating, but made me feel guilty about my own Q&As as they are always before the movie (since we're at midnight and the guests probably don't want to stick around until 2 am). I hope I'm not that boring when you just want to watch the movie!

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014)

AUGUST 4, 2014

GENRE: SPLATTER, SURVIVAL
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

I don't know why Image/RLJ is putting Cabin Fever: Patient Zero into theaters (or at least, A theater) beyond, I guess, the ability to say it was a theatrical release when selling it elsewhere or marketing to someone. Maybe it was a contractual thing? It's certainly not because of the quality - it's technically proficient and boasts some pretty terrific FX courtesy of Vincent Guastini, but the script is laughably bad and the concept flimsy; at times it manages to make the average DTV movie look good. So if you absolutely must see this thing, watch it on VOD or Blu-ray where it belongs - don't shell out $12.50 like I did, with the minor optimism that it was getting this shot because it deserved it.

I mean, it certainly couldn't be the name brand alone that got it there, right? Eli Roth's original was over a decade ago, and it wasn't exactly a trend-setter - his next film, Hostel, was the one that helped launch a wave of similar films; I don't recall being inundated with "Cabin Fever ripoffs". And the first sequel was fun but released without much fanfare due to the well publicized production issues (with director Ti West wanting his name off the film, for starters), making it hard for me to believe that the words "Cabin Fever" have the same drawing power as, say, "Hellraiser" (another series that curiously got back its (barely) theatrical mojo with its last installment). And it doesn't seem like a very lucrative gamble - there were 4 others in the screening with me (the one show this theater - the only one in Los Angeles showing it - offers per day), and even less over the weekend when my friend Joe went - he said besides him and his friend, the only other person in the theater was incredulous that they watched it, only to reveal he was the father of one the actors which is why he "had" to sit through it! Hah!

Furthermore, if it's the name brand they're banking on, why the hell did they make a movie that barely feels like a Cabin Fever movie? It's definitely the same flesh-eating virus, so this doesn't appear to be a case of someone slapping a franchise name on an unrelated movie like the Italians used to do. The first two may have had different sensibilities and influences, but they were both Troma-ish with their gleeful application of the humor and gore blend, keeping actual scares to a minimum in favor of gooey fun. Not the case here; beyond a somewhat amusing catfight between virus-stricken ladies that are literally tearing each other apart (sadly shot in the dark so you can barely appreciate the carnage), there's nothing really fun about the movie at all. Considering that the plot is about a bachelor party gone horribly wrong*, it's insane to think that the movie never really has any of the debauchery that the other films reveled in - even the pisspoor (and way too obvious) attempt to match the "fingerbang misfire" scene from the original lacks any perverse joy. You're just wondering when they'll get to the obvious reveal (one of our heroes goes down on his girlfriend, who already shows signs of infection. Guess what happens when she climaxes?), and probably even let down that they only offer a shot of his face instead of the, er, infected area (come on, you know Eli woulda had 3 cameras on that thing!).

And those are the only highlights! The rest is pretty tame and not particularly interesting or exciting. The subtitle refers to Sean Astin's character, whose family has been ravaged by the disease (off-screen, before the movie began) and seems to be immune, which prompts a couple of scientists (including one that has her cleavage exposed at all times, another thing that SHOULD be exploitative fun but just seems like a jackass producer making a suggestion no one questioned) to quarantine him and run tests to see if his blood can provide a cure. Meanwhile, our hero is being taken to his bachelor party by his brother, his best friend, and a female childhood pal who is with his brother but clearly has her sights set on him. The party is nothing more than sitting on a virgin beach and drinking beers/smoking weed, which is not only kind of lame in conception but also lame for a horror movie about a flesh eating virus - there are actually fewer people here than in the first film (to say nothing of the well-populated sequel). There is a brief hope that they will just bring the virus to the wedding and let havoc be wreaked, but nope - the bride and everyone else at the wedding is written out almost as soon as they are introduced. I guess at one point this was pitched as "Hangover meets Cabin Fever!" but somewhere along the line any notion of fun or even all out chaos was dropped. I'm sure they didn't have a blank check, but even if they were forced to limit how many infected victims we see, they didn't have to keep what was left from being fun.

Here's what they DID keep (assuming there ever WAS any idea of doing more, of course): our heroes (brothers) fighting over a girl, generic drama about the hero abandoning his best friend/business partner to work for his father-in-law (the specifics of either job are never made clear), a convoluted "twist" about how the virus has been spread, an endless sequence where two of our heroes walk through dimly lit tunnels and encounter what appear to be zombies, and even an honest-to-God "old gypsy woman forewarns of danger" scene. The latter is a particular eye-roller, it's the equivalent of smashing a fruit cart in an action movie car chase, or running to the airport in a rom-com - at this point it's practically passe to even make fun of such things, let alone try to do it straight. Jake Wade Wall has never written a good movie (his best is the 2007 Hitcher, which was so close to the original they had to list Eric Red - who had NOTHING TO DO WITH IT - as a co-writer instead of the usual "based on" credit you'd see in a remake), but a lot of this is terrible even by his standards.

Another issue is that there's no real reason for keeping the two storylines separate, as there's no twist to the moment where they finally converge. I spent a good chunk of the movie assuming there was some Saw II style scenario where we were seeing one present timeline and another that occurred days or even weeks before, but no - when the bachelor party guys stumble across Astin and the scientists it's clear that their respective events have been occurring more or less simultaneously. So why are they kept apart for as long as they are? When the guys are heading to the island they spot the building on the opposite side from their destination beach, and it's quite clear that it's the medical facility, but yet the movie doesn't actually "reveal" that for another 45 minutes. Part of the problem with both storylines is that they're way too underpopulated, with four characters each; at least if they were combined earlier (there's only like 20-25 minutes left when they meet up) there could be some additional tension as alliances are created or shattered. It might have also allowed them to reveal their stupid twist in a less clunky way (without spoiling it, as the credits roll we get a bunch of flashbacks poorly explaining how ____ was able to manipulate the others, though WHY this person is doing it is still unclear).

All of the above is more disappointing when you consider that everything that isn't the script actually ain't all that bad. The acting is fine, director Kaare Andrews stages some solid sequences (particularly the opening, slo-mo bit with Astin reacting to his dead family), the score has a touch of Ravenous to it (awesome!), and again, Guastini's FX are terrific. The underlit photography aside, there's nothing technically wrong with the movie (great titles, too), but it's all in service of a script that is convoluted for no reason and focuses on horribly vague characters, not to mention not very likable ones. Most of the characters in the original were assholes too, but the sense of humor made it work - we liked seeing them get what was coming to them, when applicable. These guys are just jerks, but the serious tone makes me think I'm supposed to be a bit concerned for their well-being. Even when it DOES get a bit exploitative, like the catfight, it doesn't feel like anyone's heart is really in it.

So we have a wholly unrelated sequel (CF2 had a few returning characters, if you recall - this doesn't even take place in the same country) with a tone that is a complete 180 from the others, making me wonder who exactly this movie is for. Won't CF fans be annoyed at the lack of humor, not to mention weirdness? Where's this movie's "Pancakes!"? Is it a prequel to the others, since the virus appears to be new? If so, why set it so far away? I know there's a fourth film (seemingly with a different creative team; Wall is not writing, thankfully), so maybe that will bridge them together more successfully, but will anyone show up to find out? I can't imagine, 12 years after the first film and 4-5 after the not-loved 2nd one, that anyone will be salivating over another entry after this one. Not every horror fan shares my OCD obsession with sticking with franchises until they are completely done (if I can stick around through all 11 Puppet Masters when I've only liked 2 of them, I can certainly get to a 4th Cabin Fever). Horror fans may be more forgiving than with other genres, but even we have our limits.

What say you?

*Also the plot of Hostel III. I guess this is just what you do when making threequels to Eli Roth movies. Least we know if Thanksgiving ever gets made they have a story to end the trilogy!

PLEASE, GO ON...

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